Beginning of an Era: Tamil Occupation of Parliament Square

"Today marks the fourth anniversary of the Tamil Occupation of Parliament Square in protest against the actions (or lack of any action) of the Sri Lankan government, the UK government and other key international actors at the time." Check out full blog post by JP here . Extract reproduced below: "Today for me is a day to be celebrated. It marks the coming of age for not only me but a whole generation of Tamil activists. It is a testament to the power of collective action, creating a voice in the public space for the previously voiceless, opening up dialogue and raising awareness. For me, it honours the unity of a community that had previously stood isolated and what the force of that unity can achieve. It was the beginning of a new era, although we did not entirely know it then. It set in motion of wheels for a new political age for the liberation struggle for Tamils in Sri Lanka. Although many believe it was a wasted effort, and certainly what followed soon after was definitely not something to be celebrated- the death of at least 40,000 Tamils by conservative estimates, the protest in itself is.

Arts festival becomes a govt mouthpiece - F Harrison

Writing in the Asian Correspondent, the former BBC journalist and author of Still Counting The Dead, criticised the arts festival Colomboscope which was funding by the British Council. See here . Reproduced in full below: 'Perhaps most shocking was that they came in military uniform to an arts festival. It could have been a bold move to include a session on war reporting in the latest literary event in the Sri Lankan capital – Colomboscope. Sponsored by Standard Chartered Bank and organised by the British Council and Goethe Institute, the boundaries of freedom of expression should at least have been nudged forward a little. But three of the four-member panel were government spokesmen. The only dissenting voice a very articulate German war correspondent, who didn’t seem to have actually reported on the end of the war in 2009 (another journalist was invited, but later pulled out). She looked increasingly frustrated and uncomfortable as the session proceeded and she came under attack as part of an undefined western conspiracy against Sri Lanka. Her words about coming to terms with the past were applauded by the audience but made little impact on the panelists bent on rewriting history to their advantage.

'Advocating the Use of the G word - Genocide' - TAG

Published by TAG on 21st March. See here. In the run up to today’s HRC vote on Sri Lanka, there has been some considerable debate over how the demands of justice are to be met, and the use of the word genocide. The latter debate was sparked by the DMK’s withdrawal from the Indian central government, in a protest against the government’s position with respect to the US sponsored resolution before the HRC. The DMK demands were twofold, India should work to strengthen the resolution, not weaken it, and the word genocide should be used in the resolution. In New Delhi last month TAG pushed for India to strengthen the resolution, to call for an International Independent Investigation, and one taken in the context of 60 years of persecution. With regards use of the word “genocide”, given our name, there can be little doubt over where we at Tamils Against Genocide stand.

Britain needs to back call for CHOGM venue change - David Miliband

Writing in The Guardian on Monday, the former UK Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, urged the British government to "back the call for CHOGM to be moved", arguing that " for it to go ahead in Sri Lanka would be a mockery of Commonwealth values and UN authority , and a further invitation for its government to ignore international pleas for decency and accountability." See here - 'Britain must stand up for human rights in Sri Lanka' . Extract reproduced below: 'Human Rights Watch says that several thousand people are locked up without charge, and that state-sponsored abuse of Tamil activists is widespread. Other UN investigations record over 5,000 outstanding cases of enforced and involuntary disappearances; and nearly 100,000 internally displaced people remain without proper protection. This is not the path of reconciliation promised by the Government after the civil war .

'Absence of war is not peace' - Tutu & Robinson

Writing in the Times of India on Monday - Commonwealth Day, two prominent members of the Elders group, the Archibishop Desmond Tutu and the former Irish President Mary Robinson, argue that the "climate required for reconciliation does not yet exist" in sri Lanka and "urge the Commonwealth to seriously reconsider appointing Sri Lanka as its chair for 2013-15". See here - 'Hope and reconciliation: Healing Sri Lanka’s wounds of conflict' - together with embedded links. Extract reproduced below: 'How the Council chooses to act at this time will have a profound impact on Sri Lanka's standing in the international community. In this regard, we urge the Commonwealth to seriously reconsider appointing Sri Lanka as its chair for 2013-15, as it currently plans to do. In this role, Sri Lanka would host the biennial meeting of Commonwealth heads of government in November this year.

Australia must 'issue a rebuke' to GOSL - The Age editorial

Editorial - 'Sri Lanka lets itself down' - published in the australian newspaper, The Age on Saturday: ON DECEMBER 14, 2012, the 54 nations of the Commonwealth adopted a charter setting out for the first time the fundamental values underpinning their affiliation. Alongside democracy, human rights, peace and security, and freedom of expression are certain principles Australians tend to take for granted: the separation of powers, the rule of law and good governance. None stands alone. Democracy and human rights cannot be fully achieved if the rule of law is not in place; democracy cannot stand...

Caste discrimination requires legal recognition in the UK

In a landmark vote on Monday, the House of Lords voted to outlaw caste-based discrimination amongst South Asian communities in the UK. The bill was fiercely backed by peers from all parties and passed with a majority vote of 225-153. Yesterday’s vote will bring the proposed bill to the House of Commons, where it needs to be voted upon by the end of the March to be passed into law and become the first anti-caste legislative act outside of South Asia. The bill in question, Clause 9(5)(a)of the 2010 Equality Act, has previously been enshrined in the anti-discrimination act but has not been activated yet. The current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government remains strongly opposed to the bill, having already announced its planned opposition in a forthcoming vote set to take place in the House of Commons. In the eyes of the government, anti-caste discrimination will do little to abolish caste-discrimination amongst British South Asians. Instead, the government relies on widespread educative measures to eradicate caste-discrimination in the UK. However, with twenty-two Liberal Democrat peers and nine Conservative peers voting against their own government’s stance, opposition to the bill remains fractured.

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada's address to UNHRC

Statement made by Ms. Vani Selvarajah at the UN Human Rights Council on Monday on behalf of Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, during Item 2 - Interactive Dialogue with High Commissioner: (See here for UNHRC webcast at 00:59:50) "Thank you Mr. President, Madam High Commissioner, on behalf of Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada and the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), we welcome your annual report, and thank you for your continued resolve to protect human rights around the world. The situation in Sri Lanka is deteriorating, with an increased level of militarization, suppression of free speech, the breakdown of the rule of law and the loss of any democratic space. The Tamil people are living under army occupation. Students from the University of Jaffna were illegally arrested and detained for peacefully protesting. Journalists continue to live and work in fear of reprisals. The Chief Justice, Shirane Bandaranayake, was illegally impeached this January. We are encouraged by your optimism that findings of the Secretary General's landmark internal review undertaken by Charles Petrie, would allow for increased responsibility, transparency and accountability within the UN system. To effectively promote accountability in Sri Lanka, Council itself must act to ensure acceptance of the UN Panel of Experts Report as an official document. The Panel of Experts concluded that there were credible allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both sides of the conflict in Sri Lanka.

More questions than answers: Minister Alistair Burt on UK arms to Sri Lanka

Following The Independent newspaper’s report on the British government’s approval of licences for the export to Sri Lanka of over £3m worth of arms - in just one three month period last year – the UK minister responsible for Sri Lanka, Alistair Burt has written to the paper seeking to clarify the transfer of hundreds of assault rifles and large quantities of ammunition amongst other weapons. However, Mr. Burt’s response raises as many questions as The Independent’s article.

Letter to UN from NE Sri Lanka Clergy

The clergy of the North-East have written to the UN Human Rights Council, calling for stronger action against Sri Lanka and also pointing out the systematic destruction of the Tamil nation by the government. The letter, signed by 133 priests, is the first of its kind to be signed by so many of the clergy, and was published on on 18th February. It has been reproduced in full below: 18th February 2013 To: The President and all members of the UN Human Rights Council Call for a strong and action oriented resolution on Sri Lanka at the 22nd session of...